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Shipbreaking NGOs blast ‘hypocritical’ Maersk

Campaigners NGO Shipbreaking Platform and Transport and Environment (T&E) have criticised the Maersk Group’s plans to demolish its old vessels on beaches in India as “hypocritical” and motivated more by its bottom line than by corporate social responsibility (CSR).

In a statement release yesterday, the Maersk Group said it is “determined to use its leverage to create more responsible recycling options” and would commit to helping “selected ship recycling yards in Alang to upgrade facilities and practices to comply with the company’s standards”.

The NGOs had previously welcomed Maersk’s long-term plan to establish a ship recycling yard in India compliant with the European Ship Recycling Regulation’s safety and environmental requirements. But the decision to sell vessels for demolition in Alang shows “the decision is merely driven by profits”, the NGO said.

“Maersk estimates they can realise an additional $1m-2m per ship by onselling to dismantling companies in India. It is hypocritical to see Maersk’s engagement in India presented proudly in the company’s CSR Report as one that aims at promoting higher standards,” said Patrizia Heidegger, executive director of the NGO Shipbreaking Platform in a statement today.

“The fact is that they are already selling ships now to facilities that operate under conditions that would not be allowed in Europe – they admit themselves that the decision to go to India is primarily taken to make their financial report look better,” Heidegger continued.

The NGO observes that the working and living conditions in Alang remain inadequate, with a lack of “decent” accommodation, which will not be solved before the first Maersk vessels arrive in Alang. Neither is there ready access to a hospital specialising in accidents and burn wounds, the organisation said.

All yards in Alang dismantle vessels in the intertidal zone, which has been banned under European law due to the amount of debris created and pollution from oil and toxic coatings. PCBs from ex-vessels cannot be properly destroyed, and the NGO says asbestos-containing materials are being re-sold freely in the Alang area. “These issues are not dealt with by the Hong Kong Convention – for European Union approval these problems will however need to be addressed,” the NGO notes.

“The situation in Alang is not ‘fantastic’, as stated by Maersk. Similar conditions would not be accepted in Denmark, in any other shipping nation in Europe, or in the shipping hubs in East Asia,” Heidegger said. “By selling ships to the Alang beach, Maersk is externalising costs for proper recycling and undermining the standard set by the European Ship Recycling Regulation.

“We expected visionary leadership from Maersk and that their CSR report boasted support for the setting up of a truly modern ship recycling facility in India. Instead they are rubber-stamping practices that they previously denounced.”

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Holly Birkett

Holly is Splash's Online Editor and correspondent for the UK and Mediterranean. She has been a maritime journalist since 2010, and has written for and edited several trade publications. She is currently studying for membership of the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers. In 2013, Holly won the Seahorse Club's Social Media Journalist of the Year award. She is currently based in London.
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